Did you know that cooking is a means to get to know yourself better? All of your senses - smell, sight, taste, touch, and hearing - are joined together during the creative process of cooking. Why don't we learn to listen to our internal kitchen? On the menu: lots of fun, creativity, and health benefits.
In the past, cooking was considered an activity to fulfill the human's physiological needs only. Over the years, the meaning associated with the act of cooking has grown and has become a means to express one's self, to awaken the senses, to blow off some steam, to enjoy new creations, and to satisfy the need for belonging. A study conducted in 1998 (Melton) also suggested that cooking helped people with learning difficulties boost their self-esteem and self-confidence.
Cooking involves experimentation, creativity, fun, and rewards. The journey can turn out to be really interesting, allowing us to listen to our internal needs and reconnect with our own level of intimacy.
Would you rather toss a salad with your hands or use kitchen utensils? Do you consider cutting a joy or a threatening experience? Is breaking apart basil leaves and kneading some flour a way to express your anger? Or on the contrary, a fun and sensorial amusement? In all cases, effects are being unveiled. Any act we do while cooking - washing, sorting out, sizzling, peeling - is linked to a sensation and helps us listen to our feelings and emotions.
It is well known that suppressing and repressing some of our emotions and thoughts is a coping strategy used to manage and regulate them. However, constantly pushing our emotions off our mind could strengthen them and lead to stress. It is important to confront such feelings and thoughts and find the time to express them in a socially appropriate manner. The kitchen could be one of the most suitable places to let go of this anger, to cry, and to free the stress of the day. We won't need to give explanations to anyone if we cry while sizzling garlic; we could release tension while kneading flour without hurting anyone... The anxiety, the tension, and the sadness would give way to a sensation of calm and equilibrium between the body and the mind.
Cooking is also a nostalgic tool and a social connector as it fulfills our love and belongingness needs. The smell of a delicious homemade cake or cooked basil, thyme, and tomato could resurface happy memories of times spent in the kitchen with our mother or grandmother. Cooking helps maintain close social and familial relationships. This is the reason why most of us enjoy preparing a meal with our kids / partner / friends. It creates get-togethers and helps preserve our familial and social history; it is a way to keep traditions alive and to evoke the memories of a deceased family member (we enjoy using traditional recipes and keeping them confidential).
This fun activity that aims to satisfy our physiological needs, awakens all our senses to differentiate between what is good and what isn't (figuratively and even literally!). Impressing our guests by cooking special and challenging meals and presenting food on appropriate plates is a reward for many of us. It helps us feel in control (of our kitchen space, the ingredients we use...) and be assertive. Hearing our guests say "Wow! This is delicious," gaining their recognition, and being the center of attention fulfills our need for appreciation, increases our self-worth, and increases our sense of autonomy.
Cooking also helps us reveal our imagination and discover our creativeness. Leaving the recipe book on its shelf and taking the risk to prepare and innovate can turn out to be really pleasurable! Combining different raw materials without knowing in advance the final taste, adding spices, making fun shapes, and choosing our cooking techniques (baking or frying) could help us face uncertainty and feel at ease. Cooking unfolds a part of us and tells something about who we are (even when we use the microwave or frozen meals). Being a vegetarian or preferring meat says a lot about our relation to food and thus to our body. Moreover, every time we prepare food, we learn more about our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses, about who we really are and what comes from our culture, and the things we consciously and unconsciously have learned.
The kitchen is simply a time for one's self; it is a place to think and let go of certain suppressed feelings. Cooking thus has therapeutic values, helping to create inner personal benefits. It is an opportunity for self-expression, creativity, pleasure, stress relief, relaxation and self-esteem boosting. It is definitely an opportunity to give to others, to be the nourishing mother, and to attain pleasure and content out of it... not to mention that it is one of the best ways to eat healthy and clean. Cooking as a hobby can thus help improve one's well being and mental health. It not only rejuvenates our senses and gives our taste buds a boost, it also improves our self-confidence! Through our meals, we express ourselves and channel something from our knowledge, our care and our love of sharing....